This is the time when we remember those who have gone before us, a time to remember great men and women, those we have known and those we have not known. Our ancestors in their generations, some of them were intelligent and gave wise counsel, some expressed valor sacrificing lives and health for families, loved ones, friends and country. Some died and were persecuted for their faith, ideas or political convictions. Some are known for gifts of art, writing, leadership, science, medicine and a variety of gifts for the good and welfare of the world they left behind.
Some of these make it onto our calendars as famous men and women to remember. Most do not. There have been men and women in ancient days and years gone by that have given prophetic insight into the times, the church and the lives of humanity. That advice and insight lives on today. Some are not known to the greater world or perhaps even to the greater community, but they are known to us. Perhaps, they are a family member or special saint that made an impact on our lives.
The church is full of saints. In fact, all members of the church are referred to as saints. You’re a saint. Those you worship and work with in this church are saints, and all those saints who move from this life to another “live on” in our memories. We remember them and their contribution, their lives, their smiles, peculiarities, distinct idiosyncrasies and all the other stuff that makes them, who they are, a saint of God.
Some have left behind a name, but others were not as popular, outspoken, or not so involved in the limelight. But these too were godly men and women whose righteous deeds will not be forgotten. Their glory will not be forgotten by those who knew them well. Their bodies are buried in peace, but their memory lives on generation after generation, after generation, after generation. We have them in our lives. We all have them. You have them and I have them, saints that we remember and that live on in our lives and in our memories.
One of the saints in my life is my grandfather Fay Madsen, husband of Hannah Porter Madsen. Fay worked for the Santa Fe railroad in La Junta, Colorado, and the city I was born in. At one time La Junta was a main depot for the railroad but not anymore. It was a hub for railroad travel, but there are no more passenger trains that stop in La Junta.
Faye Madsen is a saint, a man who served his family and community well. He was an Engineer, in the day when they still had railroad firemen, brakemen, switchmen and conductors. Those days are gone. Fay Madsen traveled to towns scattered all over the Midwest. He saw a need for providing families a place to learn about the Bible, places that did not have churches or churches that did not provide Sunday Schools or times during the week to learn about the faith he loved. He was a Methodist…Don’t know what kind of Methodist. There weren’t as many to choose from back in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. On his many travels, that became his mission, to start Sunday Schools or Bible classes during the week for children, and to enlist the help of leaders in the area to continue the practice. In the early 1900’s Faye and Hannah (my grandmother) were instrumental in building a church in La Junta. Their ministry and presence lives on in that church today, that community and many other communities, and in the lives of their children, grand-children, and great-grandchildren, from generation, to generation, to generation.
My grandfather and grandmother were not big names on published church calendars, but they are a big name in the Madsen and Porter families. Their names live on. I’m reminded by the refrain from a ‘Blood Sweat and Tears’ song: “And when I die, and when I’m gone, there’ll be one child born in this world to carry on, to carry on”. (Written by Laura Nyro)
All of you have people in your lives, relatives, and friends and loved ones, that even after they are gone, and perhaps they haven’t gone yet, but they are impacting you with wise counsel, prophetic insight and modeling the life of a saint before your eyes. Showing you ways to avoid maybe some of the things they were unable to avoid, modeling a faith even during times of obvious turmoil. This is what “All Saints Day” is about. It is time set apart to remember those gone on before us, to recall their lives, and how their lives have and will continue to encourage us as we move forward in our faith journey. Someday our journey will be no more and we will go to the fulfillment of the resurrected life, life in Christ, as those who have gone on before us, and to be a memory of those that come after us.
Our lives can and often are a testimony and a spiritual roadmap that may help others find their way, a lifestyle of influence, and a lifestyle that continues to make a difference even after we are gone. Remember that we too will all worship together in that city where there will be no strife. There will be no more hunger; there will be not more thirst.
I am reminded of a beautiful song written be Naomi Madsen, taken from the last chapter of Revelation. We have been reading the book of Revelation in our daily office readings this month.
We shall see river, the river, the river of God, coming from the throne of God and the throne of the Lamb. The tree of life with healing, healing for all who will come. We shall see his face, his face will be our joy, and there will be no night there, neither the need of a light. For Jesus will be our light, He’ll reign and He’ll shine ever bright. He’ll reign and He’ll shine ever bright. (Taken from Revelation 22:1-5)
I want to leave you with this message on the bookmark in your bulletins this morning. If you like you can pull it out and follow it as I read:
“Why were the saints, saints? Because they were cheerful when it was difficult to be cheerful, patient when it was difficult to be patient; and because they pushed on when they wanted to stand still, and kept silent when they wanted to talk, and were agreeable when they wanted to be disagreeable. That was all. It was quite simple and always will be” (source unknown)
Year A 21st Sunday after Pentecost
All Saints Sunday, November 2, 2014
St. Alban’s Episcopal Church
The Reverend Dr. David Madsen